How I Became a Pilot and Writer
My new life as a pilot and writer began while hitch-hiking along southern California’s Pacific coast. As my free-falling, hippy life style hurtled towards certain destruction, a red-neck gave me a ride. The Creator of the universe sent an unlikely messenger to introduce me to his son, Jesus. I never learned the driver’s name, nor saw him again. But after that encounter, I was sure of one thing—my life would never be the same.
Even as a young boy, my head and heart lived in the clouds—and beyond. So a short time after my hitch-hiking encounter, when I discovered my southern California college offered flight training, I hoarded every penny and signed up.
On my first lesson, when the wings took the Cessna 150’s weight, I was hooked. With the help of the GI Bill, I earned a Commercial license and Instrument rating, then flew for a mining corporation. Next, I attended A&P school specializing in avionics. Later, my wife’s generous gift from her inheritance allowed me to earn a multi-engine rating and then flight and instrument instructor ratings.
She and I bought into and managed an FBO (general aviation airport business) in northern California. There I gave flight lessons, conducted single and multi-engine Part 135 commercial charter flights, and worked as a contract Air Attack pilot for the US Forest Service.
Yet despite relishing business’ challenges and flying’s joys, I felt called into ministry. Didn’t make much sense. I had neither desire nor skill to be a pastor or evangelist. Puzzled, I searched. After two years I learned God wires us with desires and talents to serve other people. In my case, he tapped my flying passion to help folks whose only transportation options were to either walk for days, or fly for minutes. Pick one.
We joined Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) and moved our family to Ecuador, South America. There I flew Cessna 185s and 206s in the Amazon and coastal jungles, and Andes mountains. Our clients were missionaries, NGOs, government agencies, and the indigenous people themselves. During our final six years in the country, I served as the Ecuador Program Manager.
While hanging by four wing-attach bolts over dense jungle, I realized my other calling—writing. The rhythm, sounds, and pictures of well-crafted words fascinated me. Fashioning inspiring stories, or writing clear instructions captivated me.
After 17 years, MAF transferred us to their U.S.-based, home-staff. There I got my second dream job. I became a writer. I produced web and paper copy, technical manuals, articles, and blog posts. While editing MAF’s international e-zine, I wrote a weekly column. After a 5-year run, I was encouraged to collect and publish the best of them in my first book, Call For News: Reflections of a Missionary Pilot.
In 2015 I left MAF to focus on writing full-time. In 2018 I published my second book, Mile-High Missionary: A Jungle Pilot’s Memoir. I continue to travel in the US and abroad, teaching, speaking, and reporting. My wife and I live in southern Idaho and, when I’m not writing or flying, I enjoy reading, astronomy, photography, painting, piano, golf, and skiing.